Ontario's new standard lease could crack down on 'wild west' rental agreements

February 8, 2018

Ontario has created a new, standard lease form to be used in almost all residential rental agreements beginning April 30.

That's great news for renters, says Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations, which began calling on Ontario to create a standard lease back in 2012 after a tenant came to them with the suggestion. "Right now, the system we're under is the wild west," Dent told CBC Toronto on Wednesday. "We're hoping that this is going to clean all that up."

There is no standardized form for rental agreements in Ontario at present, with landlords and tenants creating their own agreements or relying on a patchwork of downloadable online forms.

The result, said Dent, is plenty of illegal terms showing up in the province's leases.

Illegal terms 'on almost every lease' 

Clauses that don't allow pets, require post-dated cheques, or stipulate the landlord can give a tenant notice that they have to leave at any time are all void, he said.

"Almost every lease in Ontario, you could find something illegal," said Dent, adding his group's tenant hotline receives calls "every day" about illegal clauses in rental agreements.

The province's new lease, designed to be "simple" and "easy-to-understand," will collect basic information about rent, deposits, and utilities, according to a news release from the province.

The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) is concerned about one section lurking near the bottom of the form, called "additional terms."

"The 'additional terms' section of the new standard form lease may allow problem clauses found in old leases to creep back into the new standard lease," said ACTO staff lawyer Dania Majid in an email to CBC Toronto. 

"Even if a tenant is savvy enough to spot an illegal clause, the lack of affordable housing and low vacancy rates leave tenants with little bargaining power to negotiate with the landlord," she continued.

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